A new sculpture will grace the Doña Ana Community College (DACC) East Mesa campus plaza this month when students return for classes.
The piece designed by Colorado artist Andy Dufford, Land and Sky, and was funded by the Art in Public Places Program of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs (NMDCA). Installation will finish in mid-January just in time for students to enjoy the work during the spring semester which begins January 16.
A local selection committee made up of DACC faculty and staff, the NMSU Architect and community members judged different proposals and received input from DACC faculty and staff before deciding on the Dufford piece. They worked with NMDCA to select art that enhances the campus and represent the diversity of DACC. The Academic Resources building was chosen to house the sculpture.
“The quality of all the submitted artworks was outstanding,” said local artist and DACC faculty member Glenn Schwaiger. “We initially looked at more than 190 artists’ submissions before narrowing the list down to four finalists. Those artists then came to campus and presented their site-specific proposals to the committee, faculty, staff and students before a final selection was made.”
Dufford’s Land and Sky sculpture is inspired by the natural history of the Mesilla Valley. Three primary elements from the history of the Valley are portrayed in the artwork: the terrain, the flight path of migrating birds, and the constellations in the skies overhead.
According to Dufford, “the bird flight symbolizes the individual and collective journey, and the terrain below and stars above represent the essential guideposts necessary to traverse the voyage. These images take shape in two overhead shade structures. The paired canopies have complementary themes. One carries the contours of the terrain in the Rio Grande rift, and the second is perforated by the constellations of the night sky and the blaze of the Milky Way.
Migrating birds make their way across each canopy, using the landmarks of earth and sky to complete their successful journey. Below the canopies, face-to‐face seating provides places for rest and conversation. The overall effect is to create a space of comfort, companionship, and discovery.”
The funding for the project, commonly called “1% for the arts,” requires a portion of appropriations for capital expenditures be set aside for the acquisition or commissioning of works of art to be used in, upon or around public buildings. According to the Cultural Affairs website, “The program is designed to enrich New Mexico communities through innovative and diverse public art.” The program which began in 1986 has placed more than 3,000 works of art throughout New Mexico. The state funding for this sculpture came as a result of the building of the East Mesa campus.
The local committee who chose the artwork was composed of project director Greg Walke of NMSU Facilities and Services; then DACC President, Dr. Renay Scott; DACC faculty members Michael Stewart, and Schwaiger; local architects Gary Williams and Brenda Quintana; Joy Miller, the Exhibits Curator for the Las Cruces Museum; long-time arts activist Irene Oliver-Lewis; and Beverly Chavez-Floyd.